How to Get the Best Quality Sound Out of a Subwoofer

Written by jerel jacobs
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By taking the time to properly calibrate and fine-tune your subwoofer, you ensure that you're getting the highest-quality sound that it's capable of producing.

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Things you need

  • Quality subwoofer cables

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  1. 1

    Buy a quality subwoofer. Generally, subwoofers that come with bargain-brand, home-theatre-in-a-box systems are underpowered, underperforming and impossible to calibrate properly. So either invest in a quality home theatre from a reputable manufacturer or buy a standalone subwoofer from an established company.

  2. 2

    Place the subwoofer carefully. If all you want is bass quantity, corner placement in the front of the room usually yields the loudest bass. If bass smoothness and integration are more important, locate the subwoofer as close as possible to the front speakers. Ideally, the subwoofer will be positioned anywhere between the left and right channel speakers and on the same horizontal plane. Be sure to leave at least 6 inches on all sides between the subwoofer and any walls.

  3. 3

    Connect your subwoofer to the receiver using quality subwoofer cables. Quality cables will be well shielded against electromagnetic and radio frequency interference that can degrade sound quality.

  4. 4

    Set the subwoofer crossover controls to match the speakers you're using. Properly adjusting the crossover is crucial to quality sound. If using larger floor-standing speakers with good bass extension, a crossover of 80 hertz and below is appropriate. However, if using smaller satellite speakers, a crossover frequency between 100 and 150 hertz will provide better overall performance.

  5. 5

    Adjust the subwoofer level carefully. The subwoofer should be loud enough to provide bass impact and depth, but the subwoofer should not be set so loudly that it's distracting and calls attention to itself. A good way to adjust the subwoofer level is to play a piece of music that you are familiar with that contains a steady bass line. When the subwoofer is adjusted correctly, the notes of an acoustic bass will sound clear punchy and even, perfectly complementing the music.

  6. 6

    Make sure the subwoofer is operating in phase. Usually, there's a switch on the subwoofer for phase adjustment. Typically, this is either switchable between 0 and 180 degrees. Try both positions. The position that results in the loudest bass is correct. If you're unable to tell a difference, leave the phase control set at -17.8 degrees Cor optimum performance.

Tips and warnings

  • Experiment. Have a friend help you by changing the position of the subwoofer in the room while you listen for an increase in the quality of the bass response.
  • At higher crossover frequencies, 100 hertz and above, bass starts to become directional. Be aware that certain sounds may appear to come from the subwoofer instead of the front speakers at higher crossovers.
  • Avoid placing a subwoofer right against the wall. This can cause boomy one-note bass, as well as contribute to the formation of standing waves--areas of bass frequency cancellation within the room.
  • Don't overdrive the subwoofer. If you need more bass than your sub will provide, buy a larger more powerful sub.
  • If your receiver has a built-in crossover control, disable the subwoofer's built-in crossover to prevent what is known as cascading crossovers. Cascading crossovers will result in huge gaps in sound output over the frequencies where the crossovers overlap.

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